Posted by Sophie Webb, Solicitor
Contributing authors: Emma Young
Princess Haya applies for Wardship Order
Princess Haya, former Olympic equestrian and the estranged sixth wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum, has sought protection from the High Court in London this week.
While the specific details of the orders sought by the Princess are unknown, it is believed that she has applied for the following orders:
- A Forced Marriage Protection Order, which aims to protect a person who has been, or is being, forced into marriage;
- A Non Molestation Order, which protects against violence or harassment by a partner, former partner or family member; and
- A Wardship Order, in respect of the children whom she fled from Dubai with.
Mr Mohammed has applied for the children to be returned to Dubai and the case is being heard by Sir Andrew McFarlane, the President of the Family Division.
So what is ‘wardship’?
When wardship proceedings are commenced, the child is immediately made a ‘ward of the court’. This is particularly critical when time is of the essence. This means that the High Court obtains parental responsibility for the child, which they share with those who already hold parental responsibility, for example, the child’s parents. The Court will, however, be vested with ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the child to ensure their safety and protection. Day-to-day care of the child still remains with those who have parental responsibility for them. However, the court’s consent is required for any important steps in the child’s life. Additionally, in wardship cases, the child cannot be removed from England and Wales without the court’s permission.
Wardship cases are somewhat rare. In previous cases, the Court has deemed it appropriate and necessary to make a child a ward of the court in the following situations:
- For emergency medical treatment;
- To prevent an undesirable association;
- To protect a child from forced marriage; and
- To protect an abducted child or in circumstances in which there is a substantial foreign element
In cases such as Princess Haya, where it is being argued that the children have been wrongfully removed from the jurisdiction and an order is being sought for their return (here, to Dubai), it is often considered that a wardship order may carry greater weight in the country they have been removed from, then an order made under other proceedings (for example, Child Arrangement proceedings).
Anyone with an interest in the children can apply for a wardship order – for example, the parents, the local authority, or any person connected with the child.
Contributing author: Emma Young.
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